Manager search over; Cubs need pitching

ORLANDO, Fla. -- As general managers gather for three days of meetings, the Chicago Cubs are quickly turning the page from their managerial search to their player search.

"We’ve been doing all of our research and strategizing for the winter, trade possibilities and analyzing the free-agent market," president Theo Epstein said over the weekend in Chicago. "Coming up with some plans. That’s all been going on, but we haven’t been able to dedicate 100 percent of our attention to it, obviously, with the managerial search. So we’re re-immersing ourselves in that."

The first order of business won’t have anything to do with other general managers as the Cubs need to hire a coaching staff. That will happen in the coming days and weeks, but, on a lateral level, so will player acquisition. Traditionally, the general manager’s meetings lay the groundwork for the winter meetings in December. The Cubs are looking for pitching.

"We need to add some quality," Epstein said. "I think we’re in a little bit better position than we’ve been as far as quantity."

They added three pitchers -- Corey Black, CJ Edwards and Ivan Pineyro -- at the Class-A level last season, and all three helped them to a championship, but that was at the lower levels and none of those players necessarily project to be an ace. The Cubs are probably still looking for a pitcher of the caliber of a World Series Game 1 starter. That’s a long-term view.

In the short term, they need a bullpen -- especially a closer.

"We have guys that could close, but I think that’s an opportunity for us where if you go to market with the closer’s role ready to bestow on somebody, that can help you sign a pretty good pitcher," Epstein said. "We are going to hit the market with a full closing opportunity to offer the right pitcher we acquire, either through free agency or trade and with the knowledge we have some options that are interesting in-house."

In-house means Pedro Strop, acquired for Scott Feldman last season, and probably not Kevin Gregg.

"We don’t have a full bullpen," Epstein said. "We could add some players with more established track record and some upside."

Epstein added "one more rotation piece" as a need after Jeff Samardzija, Travis Wood, Edwin Jackson and Jake Arrieta. Scott Baker will be given another look after his decent finish to the season after returning from Tommy John surgery, but Baker will look around as well.

Epstein said the Cubs are still in acquisition mode for young players -- at least for one more season -- but that doesn’t mean he’ll take it easy this week.

"We’re going to pursue trades for the very best players in the game," Epstein said.

But only if they fit the Cubs' long-term plans, both economically and on the field.